“Content is where I expect most of the real money will be made on the internet”- Bill Gates
In January 1996 Bill Gates wrote an essay titled Content is King. The essay has gained popularity in recent years as it represents a startlingly accurate prediction of current trends in internet technology and usage and a detailed account of why content is so important to those trends. In this post I’m going to summarize the relevant points from Gates’ article and make the connection to the present, explaining the eminence of content in modern marketing.
What is content? Content is quite a broad category, Gates admits. “When it comes to an interactive network such as the Internet,” he explains… “the definition of “content” becomes very wide.” He lists software as a form of content not often considered to be so, but mentions the content he is really talking about will come in the form of information and entertainment. Today we can think of videos, informative articles, interactive widgets, essays, blog posts and the like all as forms of content. It’s the ‘stuff’ you fill webpages with. Gates lists one strength of the internet as the ease with which users can upload content. In his mind (and in current practice) you don’t have to be a big company with lots of money and superior technology to upload content. Realistically you could be “anyone with a PC and a modem” and upload your own content. Keep in mind this was well before the social media revolution that he wrote this. The second significant benefit Gates sees to internet content management is the extremely low cost. There is little to no overhead and almost no material cost; principally because users aren’t printing or producing new physical material when they add content. Rather, they are uploading and accessing it freely across a network. These two factors allow content management to be inexpensive and content producers to include you me and anyone else that wants to join in on the fun.
Now that we know what Gates means when he talks about content is it’s important to understand how one produces quality content and why quality content is essential. But first, a look at some things Gates correctly deduced in his essay. In Gates’ mind it wouldn’t be enough to just take content already in print form and put it online. New material would constantly have to be produced. Gates accurately predicted the information flow itself would need to update and improve constantly as well. He believed users “must be rewarded with deep and extremely up-to-date information”. Hence, two birds killed with one stone. This has certainly played out as true. Users are rewarded and information flow steadily speeds up. The flow of information has now sped up to reflect the medium it flows through. He also correctly predicted the diffusion of scientific literature on the web. Previously expensive and lightly dispersed scientific material became cheaper and easier to access when published online. The internet gave and continues to give the world an unprecedented liquidity and volume of information.
Users aren’t the only party that Gates believed needed incentives to interact with internet content. “For the internet to thrive” he said, “content providers must be paid for their work.” Content providers offer a number of services to their clients and the users they entertain. They may be writers, video producers, photographers, web designers, advertisers, or graphic designers. Gates correctly guessed the relationship between content and those who produce it. Content would be produced on small or large corporate or personal basis in exchange for money. That content would then be used to make money for the corporate interest or person(s) in question. He correctly predicted that as load times decreased there would be an exponentially increasing desire to advertise on the internet and that as that desire grew so too would public interest in the internet. The number of content producers would then grow, feeding back into the cycle.
Content is all about drawing interest to a webpage. If you didn’t care who came to your webpage you could leave it blank or not bother having one at all. Whether you’re a personal blogger, professional photographer, small business owner, or what have you; you want people to come to your webpage. Content gives businesses and individuals the means to generate interest and attract people to a certain webpage. Interest is always valuable (pun intended). Content is the substance of the internet, that which gives it shape, depth, and character. Without it the internet is a shell, a vessel with great potential but nothing to fill it. As such it remains essential to put quality content onto the Internet. Low quality or even mediocre content will no longer cut it. The online ‘ecosystem’ is flooded with individuals filling every niche. Putting thoughtful and engaging content on your webpage is the only way to stand out. Think about it from the average Internet users perspective. Everywhere you look is something to draw your attention. Only the most effective advertising and marketing will draw you to a webpage and only the most comprehensively tasteful, unique, and high-quality content will keep you there. Gates predicted, “intense competition and ample failure as well as success in all categories of popular content, not just software and news, but also games, entertainment, sports programming, directories, classified advertising, and on-line communities devoted to major interests.” Right again.
If you haven’t put focus on quality content it’s not too late. For examples of how we do content look around our site, check out our pages on graphic design and slideshow production, and read our blog. Want to start your own blog? Need some consumer research done? We can help you add quality content to your site today.